In my quest to find the ultimate MMO, I have searched for game elements that reduce the amount of power creep but still come together to support a themepark game. Let's be honest: Sandbox games might suffer power creep, but because most sandboxes are skill-based, that power creep is not as prevalent or can easily be mitigated by tweaking classes. But themeparks are linear by design, and to remain fun, they have to retain part of that linear quality. Progression and continually racking up numbers and achievements is enjoyable to a large number of MMO players, otherwise it would be games like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies dominating the market, not World of Warcraft.
Believe it or not, there are online games that have done a tremendous job of trying to defeat power creep, but unfortunately, they do not exist as one game... until now in my Anti-Power-Creep MMO!
If you read the reviews of Star Wars: The Old Republic, you probably noticed a trend. Nearly everyone said that it is one of the best leveling experiences in MMOs. Even some die-hard MMO haters like Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation thought that SWTOR didn't feel like the average MMORPG. Across the board, players felt more invested in their characters and actually cared about what was happening to them. In fact, I have a friend who says that while he was leveling up his Bounty Hunter, he actually got mad at an NPC. He wasn't mad for the usual reasons that players get mad at video games, but he despised what the NPC was doing to his character through the plotline.
Many other games have zoned elements similar to SWTOR's, and I want to see them carried over to my Anti-Power-Creep MMO, too. But instead of making their way through zones locked to certain levelbands, characters of higher levels in TOR often have to travel back to lower levels to complete storylines. To help keep older areas more relevant, this process is necessary.
If you've played Guild Wars 2 or even Guild Wars, then you're familiar with the limited toolbar. Players can use only a specific selection of abilities at a time. Granted, GW2 bases some of these abilities on the weapon that you're currently holding, which would certainly make things interesting, but in my Anti-Power-Creep MMO, this part isn't completely necessary. However, it might make individual fights more dynamic.
First off, I guess I should give a quick definition for non-comparables. These are items or abilities that do not have a direct impact on each other. For instance, although an ability like dodge does prevent damage, it's not directly related to the damage your character inflicts, just like travel speed doesn't directly relate to agility. League of Legends has literally hundreds of them.
If you combine the LoL champion's non-comparables with GW2's limited ability bar, you could literally have thousands of different combinations of builds that are viable yet do not interfere with each other or make one class better than another.
RIFT's soul system and instant-respecs make a player more viable and allow for players who like to play just one class to feel more useful to a guild or group. With one click outside of combat, a player can completely change the role he is playing in a given scenario.
Now, here comes the fun part. We have limited skills. We have thousands of non-comparables. What if we tie some of these non-comparables to armor or weapon sets? This will give players a reason to play or continue to play endgame instances like raids and PvP battlegrounds. These non-comparables will not necessarily make one piece of equipment better than the previous piece, but it might be better for that specific player's playstyle or maybe for a specific instance.
If you haven't experienced the City of Heroes sidesiding mechanic, then unfortunately, you only have a couple of weeks left to give it a taste. This system is genius. Players of higher levels can play missions alongside their friends of lower levels and vice versa. There is no need to solo content, ever, if you didn't want to, so developer content isn't totally wasted, and at the same time, you can revisit old content without having to completely reroll.
OK, SWTOR, RIFT, and GW2's PvP systems aren't perfect, but they have one mechanic that makes PvP extremely fun, balanced, and not power creepy. The bolstering mechanic allows for everyone in the PvP instance to be bumped up to max level. Granted, the characters don't have all of their top-tier abilities in this case, but I think that's part of what would make my Anti-Power-Creep MMO more interesting.
I'd also like to see this mechanic carried over to open-world PvP, only inverted. If a high-level player wanders into a lowbie area looking for scrubs to dominate, a reversed bolster mechanic will give the opponent a fighting chance and possibly a challenge to the higher-level character. We PvP for the challenge, not to grief, right?
Lastly, I can't ignore World of Warcraft. Many players like the leveling process in WoW. Unfortunately, I was never able to latch onto it, but one item I believe the team at Blizzard has done really well is raiding. Raiding has evolved over the lifespan of WoW, but it has always been a challenge and fun for people who participated regularly. In fact, WoW still sets the standard for raiding, and many guilds worldwide attempt to be the very first to complete the hard-mode versions of the raids. And unlike endgame dungeons in some other games, the raids are not completed the same day they are released.
Would you play my game? Are you tired of power creep as I am? Perhaps you can send some developers over here so they can read this. Perhaps we can change the face of MMOs together. Yeah, that's too lofty. Maybe we'll just entertain ourselves as we dream about the ultimate MMO.
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